The NWN project was a happy little hubbub of activity in
March. Aside from the intrusion of the Game Developers
Conference, where I was fortunate enough to host a
roundtable, the month was a good one for the project.
Without further delay, let's get into it…
The additions to the graphics engine are looking good. Every
few days I see a new little graphical addition and I'm
amazed at how much better the engine looks. NWN is going to
be one visually impressive game.
to a solid graphics engine, RPG programming need to focus on
a number of other "minor" elements such as
inventory, AI, path finding, a combat system, a complex
rules system, etc, etc. :-) The Inventory system is
progressing well, with the basic pick-up, equip,
put-to-inventory, and drop-to-ground elements working
together within a multiplayer environment. AI and dynamic path finding
are also well underway. We have a pesky Noober fellow
walking around by himself in the game world, avoiding
dynamic objects, for instance. The combat system is still
undergoing heavy design and prototyping, and we're looking
forward to seeing what the first results will look like.
The programming additions to the graphics engine would be
nothing without art, of course. The artists on the project
were able to put together some truly great content for the
engine and make some very sharp scenes. The tilesets are
settling into their final look and feel and the detail is
amazing. The character portraits are just underway and are
already looking great. Additionally we have created a few
new PC / NPC models and they look very slick. The art team
has expanded with the addition of new personnel and we are
starting to generate a prodigious amount of content on a
Over the ides of March, the design team covered a wide
variety of ongoing issues and concerns. We're starting to
really get into the radial menu hierarchies and we'll start
seeing them in the game fairly soon. In other GUI-work,
we've been sorting out some of the major GUI-flows for
Solstice, as well, making sure that it will have all the
power and ease-of-use that we'll require of it. We've also
been discussing some different voice types we want available
for the player characters and NPCs, and will be developing
those further in the months ahead.
revisiting our NPCs, lately, dealing with them in greater
and greater depth. We've been isolating their various through lines
within the larger story and clarifying their motivations and
desires. This more drama-oriented approach is lending our
characters a lot more depth and texture than the more common
function-oriented approach to NPC and story development. All
of this, of course, has beneficial ripple effects throughout
the larger story. Little by little, we're weaving it tighter
and tighter, in greater and greater detail.
As a whole
NWN is coming together a little at a time. Every day seems
to bring an exciting new addition to this or that element of
the project. Many of the early design ideas are just
starting to emerge in the final framework and they seem to
work quite well. With the implementation phase now fully
underway, the strength of the early design is being proven
time and time again. What is more, our solid prototyping and
troubleshooting process is actually saving us a lot of time
and grief in the here and now, helping things go smoothly as
the project gets more complex and the various teams expand
to include new personnel. We've got a talented and dedicated
team here, spring is in the air, we've got a great new
version of the engine, and we've got plenty of new things to
show in it. Things are good.
Producer - NWN
pretty busy around here, as of late, adding a few new
members to the development team, working towards our E3
demo, and adjusting to some of our new in-house development
tools that are beginning to come online. Also, there will be
a fair-sized BioWare contingent attending the upcoming Game
Development Conference, as well, so a number of folks are
putting the final touches on their presentations and round
tables. Our ever-intrepid Dr. Ray Muzyka will be presenting
a Baldur's Gate post-mortem, providing a bit of a window
into some of the things that can go right and wrong in the
development of today's large-scale CRPGs. Also, Ben
Smedstead will be filling in for Greg Zeschuk, leading a
round table on the maintenance team morale and focus over
the course of a lengthy development cycle.
In terms of
Neverwinter-specific presentations, Trent Oster will be
hosting a round table on the role and importance of
prototyping within the development process (something we've
greatly benefited from) and Scott Grieg will be a part of
the Sega panel on cross-platform development. Also, Mark
Brockington will be presenting on path-finding issues and
how to optimize large-scale A-Star search algorithms. So if
you'll be attending the conference, pop on by and say hello.
If not, keep your eye on the BioWare website for some
After a long time in the trenches, working on underlying
structures and behind-the-scenes code, the programming team
is finally getting some of the glory tasks that are
immediately apparent to anyone running the game. The
lighting system is coming together nicely and is looking
better than ever, especially when you see torchlight
glinting off an axe-blade or playing across your character's
breastplate. The interface components are also starting to
come together, with functioning inventory, chat, and
character rosters. The best part is that all of this is
functioning in both multiplayer and single player modes:
client, server, LAN, Internet. Also, the tools group has
been hard at work on some viewers for the artists, on
Solstice's area-painting interface, and on the various ins
and outs of saving and loading a variety of NWN file types.
It isn't a game yet but we're getting closer with every day.
be happy to know that Mark Brockington has wrapped up his
much-awaited new NWN
scripting document for all of you. It's big, it's
bright, it's shiny, so give it a look and let us know what
Industrious as always, the art team has started work on
player portraits and has done another wave of tileset conception.
A subset of the crypts have been fully modeled and textured
for use in Solstice's prototype area painter and we've been
getting a really nice feel for how the new lighting system
interacts with them. The programmers have been bringing more
and more of our interface mockups to life and we're really
beginning to define the look and feel of the player's
well under way, both for some basic game and GUI actions as
well as for actual inventory items. Weapons are getting the
royal treatment and the sheer variety of visual styles
available in NWN ought to be pretty stunning. The icon for a
broadsword, for instance, is composed of three parts: blade,
guard, and hilt, each of which you will be able to select
independently when creating the weapon in Solstice. In other
words, your 'Broadsword of the Deva's Fall' can combine the
curving snake-like blade, the jewel encrusted guard, and the
scarab hilt to make something visually unique within your Gameworld.
Assuming that there are 5 options for each of the 3 parts,
the system allows for 125 visually distinctive broadswords
(above and beyond the various unique combinations for
daggers, short swords, long swords, bastard swords, etc.).
Design Doc 4.0 has been completed (and there was great
rejoicing), allowing the team to return its focus to the
ongoing implementation plans. The existing ones have
withstood the Design Doc revisions very well and needed only
minor modifications to bring them inline with the latest
developments. For the most part, though, we've been able to
look forward rather than back.
One of the
exciting aspects of being able to return to our work on the
story is that the implementation plans have brought some new
characters to the fore and have also led to some refinements
of the larger story. All of this preliminary documentation
not only makes the eventual module creation process more
efficient but it also helps us to tell a better tale.
flurry of activity, work is also underway on a collection of
casting guides. Sound and voice work is critical in defining
the feel of a game and the nature of the characters within
it, and these guides play an important role when it comes
time for Black Isle to cast the voice actors for the game. A
typical guide includes a phonetic pronunciation of the
character's name, a brief description of the character's
role in the story, a description of the desired voice
(including any desired accents and a movie actor or other
famous figure that sounds similar), and finally some sample
lines that are typical of what the character might say.
went by in a blur and it seems like I just finished my
December update. Nonetheless, we've made some major progress
with the graphics engine and extending the scripting
language. But enough generalizations -- let's get to the
In January we made amazing progress with the graphics engine
and the art tools. We know have the character coloring
system running in a test application, with an added
component for making metal look like… well, metal. For all
of you who have gotten used to all the old prototype
screenshots floating around the web, prepare to be
thoroughly amazed when you see it in the new engine.
has undergone a good set of revisions, as well, and the
language is growing in power and ease-of-use every day. For
the technically minded among you, we not only added the
ability to pass parameters into user-created functions but
also the ability to create user-defined structures. This
will allow for much more powerful character and module
Not to be
outdone by the scripting and engine guys, our multi-platform
programmers have made some great progress with the various
OS versions of the game, as well. The Mac, Linux, and BeOS
versions are all caught up to the Windows version and
For the Art Department, January was a continuation of conception.
We are planning out the various looks and themes of various
tilesets, making each as interesting as possible. We also
had a large shakedown with the art content creation tools,
finding any problems and optimizing the workflow between the
creation package and the game engine. We've also started
putting together a few big teasers and goodies for those of
you who can smuggle yourselves into E3.
Aside from the ongoing progress on the implementation plans,
the design group was slammed all month with a large number
of issues. We've been finalizing the spell list to pass off
to the programmers and have taken another pass through the
latest 3rd Edition revisions, making sure we're accurate and
up to speed. Following all the design meetings, each of the
issues discussed and decided have to be committed to the
ever-more-massive Design Document 4.0. We expect this one to
be more than double the size of its previous incarnation, a
sure sign that the game is starting to take shape. It's a
long and difficult process but it will pay off when it comes
time to begin the implementation process.
January has been a good start to the millennium. We were
able to make the scripting modifications in direct response
to the requests from our message boards and we continue to
look to our growing community for further suggestions of how
we can make Neverwinter Nights better.
of December went by in a flash. The development crew logged
some good progress and some key areas are moving ahead quite
well. The world didn't blow up with Y2K and everyone is back
in the office and in production.
December was a good month for programming, with substantial
progress on the area transition system and the AI path finding
code. We now have an annoying NPC (shades of
"Noober," anyone?) who will blindly follow you
from area to area. The chat system is progressing well, with
the basic system functional and working well. On the
graphics engine front, we have added a few new visual
effects and refined the tools for art creation. Our next
demo is going to look amazing.
For the Art Department, December was all about conception.
We put a lot of thought and argument into the in-game user
interfaces and came up with a format that we're quite happy
with. There are still a few quirks to be worked out, of
course, but we'll be able to get a better handle on things
as we move from the concept stage and into the
implementation of a few working prototypes. Additionally, we
burned a fair amount of time into art scheduling and
personnel planning to make sure that the department's a
well-oiled machine in time for our headlong dive into full
The design group spent December creating implementation
plans for the first modules in the first environment. The
plan for module 101 spans 35 tight single-spaced pages, with
every detail you need to know to build the entire module.
The effort spent now on the implementation plans will save a
ton of effort in the implementation and testing stages,
later in the development cycle. We're also busy balancing
our spell lists and detailing the various game effects for
the programmers to start working on.
December went quite well. Every day I see some new idea or
new interpretation of our vision, making the experience of
working on NWN a magical one. The ideas and suggestions on
the message boards continue to amaze me and drive the team
forward. We can't imagine a better project to be working on.
Producer - Bioware - NWN
Believe it or not, the programming is running on schedule.
Comparing where we are now to the programming plan we made
in April, we are plus or minus a week or two on most tasks.
Of course there are a few tasks we should've started
already, but we have also completed some tasks that weren't
scheduled for completion until next year.
One of the
tasks that was done early was the porting of the machine
dependent portions of the game framework. We have the Mac,
Linux, and BeOS versions up to date with the Windows
versions. Yes, even BeOS (though, for the record, we don't
have any final plans for the distribution of the various OS
versions). We even had a Windows server running with
Windows, Mac, Linux and BeOS clients all running around
together in one of our test areas.
pretty much finished up all of the non-game related coding.
Everything from now on is user interface, game behaviors,
and rule systems. Of course this is actually the bulk of the
work, but it will be nice to see the game features start to
appear. We are currently working on the internals of the
inventory system and, once that is done, we will be tackling
the combat system. The combat system will probably be an
ongoing task, but we are hoping to have a preliminary system
to tinker with soon.
On the Art front, modeling and texturing is progressing with
the city of Luskan. We updated the BioWare website over the
course of the month and have made some solid progress on
concepting both characters and tilesets. We're also starting
to work out many of the functional and artistic details of
the graphical interface. Unfortunately, art at this stage of
the project is a lot of hard work with very little final
content to show for it. We are planning on a lean period for
new screenshots and artwork over the next few months.
Design has been focused on the writing of the implementation
plans and staying current with the latest updates to the 3rd
Edition rules. We have made some revisions to our storyline,
adding depth to the player's experience and making it more
fantastic, as well as helping it fit better with the new
D&D rules. The first implementation plan recently
crossed my desk and is exactly what it was intended to be:
an extremely in-depth detailing of a module. It will be an
invaluable reference for the writers and scripters, and a
bible for our testers. We may also bundle them up as text
files and make them accessible to the DMs and module
designers so everyone can better understand the details of
the module and the process we went through to get there. At
about 25 pages apiece, these little nuggets of joy are going
to be keeping the Design Department busy well into the
Neverwinter Nights is a huge undertaking and will require a
great deal of expertise and commitment to complete. We are
pushing forward as fast as possible with the care and
attention the game deserves. As a team, a company and a
group of passionate individuals we are committed to making
the greatest D&D computer game possible.
Producer - Bioware - NWN
over? What do you mean it's over?
has been a blur, with solid steady progress on NWN. Our good
friend Greg "Big Tuna" Peterson did a little post
on the message board asking what people would like for an
update, so I will try to broaden my approach and address a
few of the big questions you all have. First, however, I'd
like to break down the past month's progress according to
the different departments.
NWN art is progressing smoothly, with character modeling and
texturing on target. The new character system is working
quite well and we have both sexes of full plate armor
modeled. The next models to be created are the partial plate
characters. Character texturing has progressed in a solid
manner with most of the full plate models completed. We also
put the final design on the character coloring system, which
allows the player to change the six user defined colors on
On the tile
modeling front, the evil dungeon tileset modeling has been
completed. We also have a good start on the Luskan city
tileset. We'll still have to go back to texture the tiles
and create the path finding and collision detection meshes,
but we are making good progress.
On the programming front, progress has been fast and
furious, with a ton of programming design and implementation
happening in the past little while. We have built the basic
AI system structure and have implemented the path finding
engine. The graphics engine reworking is well underway and
we are re-engineering some of the art tools for the engine.
The game GUI systems are progressing at lightning speed, and
we're currently getting our GUI primitives to work
seamlessly across all platforms. The Mac and Linux versions
are almost up to date and looking good.
month is will be possible to get the game clients to log in
to a server and have each client display his/her character
and any other characters logged in. From this stage forward,
we can get into game specific systems, such as the AI, the
combat system, and the radial menu system implementation.
November is where the real fun starts and we're all looking
forward to it.
The big push in design during October has been the various
game systems, such as lore, reputation, encounters, chat,
and so on. We have been taking the various early ideas,
bringing them up to date, and consolidating them in the
hefty Design Doc 3.0. I would love to speak more in-depth
about the game systems we have been working on but, due to
their close links with the 3rd Edition rules, we're not
really in a position to discuss too many of them publicly. I
will tell you that we did some additional work with
specialty priests (whistles innocently) and of course read
the through the finalists in the story contest. We would
like to say a big thanks to everyone who participated. We
can't wait to play the modules you people are going to
1) The Scripting Language One of the major requests was
about the scripting language. I passed that on to our
AI/Networking programmer, Mark Brockington, and he was kind
enough to write
up a brief blurb on the scripting language.
Art Another request dealt with the release of some concept
art, so in the screenshot
section we have put up some of our new concepts.
also one new screenshot in the Gallery as well as a new
wallpaper .BMP in the Downloads
section. - Ed.
Screenshots Another request was for monster screenshots.
Sadly, I'm going to decline on this one, because we want to
polish up the monsters we are working on.
Solstice Toolset Another area of substantial requests was
the Solstice Toolset, what will it look like, what can it
do? At this time the Solstice toolset is still early in
development and there isn't much to show or to talk about.
We will post updates on the tools when they are further
that's it for another month. The project is on course and
the development is going extremely well.
Producer - Bioware - NWN
everyone. We have some new, fancy 3rd Edition D&D
concept art for you to look at -- straight from Wizards of
the Coast. Check it out on our Gallery page.
adventurers of Faerűn! The length and breadth of Toril
could not hold all of the books that Deneir would require to
scribe the world's tales of high adventure. The patron of
writing has requested that I, his humble servant, hold a
contest to bring forth the finest tales of valor and infamy
from across the Realms. Might your tale be the one held in
highest esteem by Deneir himself? You'll never know unless
you take up the challenge...
Write a story about high adventure or foul villainy in the
Forgotten Realms. The story must be 1,000 words or less. Submit
the story as non-formatted plain text in an e-mail
message to the preliminary judges. Include your full name
and a shipping address. Stories will be judged by NWN Lead
Designer/Avatar of Deneir Rob Bartel. Do not send e-mail
directly to him about the contest or Deneir's Olde Symbole
of Paine will be employed. Stories must be submitted by
midnight, September 30th, 1999. All judges' decisions are
will be selected for creative use of setting, characters,
be determined by how well we think the authors excelled in a
particular area. For instance, an author who showed an
excellent use of setting may receive a Forgotten Realms
Boxed Set, the Shining Empires Boxed Set and the Sea of
Fallen Stars Campaign Expansion. Other possible prizes
include (but are not limited to): Player's Handbooks
(including Options), DM's Handbooks (including Options),
Forgotten Realms setting materials, the Faiths and Avatars
series of books, the Encyclopedia Magica series, the
Monstrous Manuals, and various Forgotten Realms novels.
Please do not request prizes or Deneir's Olde Symbole of
Paine might have to be employed again.
stories will be displayed on the NWN website for praise and
adoration by your peers.
- Garrd of
Deneir, Priest Librarian, Emissary of the Soaring Spirit to
our brothers in faith, the clergy of Oghma in Neverwinter
I am proud
to say that the development of Neverwinter Nights is rolling
along very smoothly. We have a great team of very talented
individuals. On a more detailed front I recently had the joy
of observing a design idea come to fruition. The character
colouring system, which allows us six different player
colours on each player model, works how we planned it. The
end result is you can set the six individual colours to any
shade and get the character to look just as you want. The
system works quite well and will give us a vast visual
variety to characters and NPCs. On a personal note, I would
like to wish Guido Henkel well in his future endeavors and
say it was a pleasure working with him on the development of
Producer - Bioware - NWN
the official website for “Neverwinter Nights”. Some of
you may remember a similarly named game some years back that
was hosted by a large Internet service provider at a time
when Internet gaming was in its earliest days. Times have
changed since then and so has the Internet.
are proud to present you a completely new generation of
“Neverwinter Nights”. Based on the award-winning
“Dungeons & Dragons”™ system, “Neverwinter
Nights” is a true multi-player experience and will allow
you to play campaigns in the “Forgotten Realms” campaign
setting. The game is currently developed by BioWare, the
people who created the magical worlds of the award-winning
“Baldur’s Gate”, and is brought to you by Black Isle
Studios. Work on the game is still in progress and it will
take quite some time before we will all be able to enjoy the
fruits of this project, but with this website we want to
keep you informed about the progress that is made on this
title. It will also give you the chance to voice your
opinions, wishes and expectations. We will always have an
open ear for what you have to say.
a new world - welcome to “Neverwinter Nights”